JEDDAH: Japanese singer Mika Kobayashi played Saudi Arabia for the first time with two concerts in Jeddah on Friday and Saturday.
The singer mesmerized the audience with a power-packed performance of famous tracks from “Attack on Titan,” “Gundam UC,” and “Aldnoah Zero” at City Walk’s Anime Village.
Kobayashi told Arab News that Saudi Arabia had provided her with a totally different experience from other venues at which she has played.
She said: “The audiences were truly captivating and engaging from the beginning. It was amazing to see that my songs transcended language and so many people knew me and listened.”
Despite the hot conditions, Kobayashi felt the vibes were cool as the audience’s reaction kept her comfortable throughout.
She is now keen to learn more about her fans in Saudi Arabia and looks forward to future opportunities in the Kingdom.
She added: “I didn’t have much of an impression before of Saudi Arabia, but visiting this country was truly memorable and changed my perspective.
“The people are so friendly and welcoming. That’s one of the reasons I want to come back and perform again.”
Vocalist Kobayashi has worked with Hiroyuki Sawano since 2010. She first collaborated on the album “Massugu na Otoko,” providing vocals for the song “Illusion.”
She features on “Final Fantasy,” “Blue Exorcist,” and various other solo projects. Her signature singing style owes much to classical music, but her talent is distinguished by the power she displays while performing songs of battle and conflict.
Hamza Mohammed, 25, who attended one of her shows, said: “The audience was provided with a real treat. We chanted the famous lines of the songs with Mika Kobayashi.
“The love for anime in the Kingdom has increased, and such concerts just bring so much to fans like us who can listen to our favorite songs and engage with the singers.”
Muzn Alhind, 29, said: “The Anime Village is the best zone in City Walk. I have attended three concerts so far and enjoyed all of them. Mika’s concert was one of the best as a debut performance. She sang fiercely and strongly while engaging with the audience.”
Review: Netflix’s ‘Love at First Sight’ is sweet but instantly forgettable
Updated 25 September 2023
CHENNAI: One of the hallmarks of a good movie or book is its ability to lace the structure with dramatic curves. This is even more of a necessity for a romance, and Netflix's latest foray into this genre, “Love at First Sight,” fails in this regard. Added to this is the unimaginative lighting and shots that are oh-so predictable.
Helmed by Vanessa Caswill from a screenplay by Katie Lovejoy that is based on the book penned by Jennifer E. Smith, “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight,” the film begins with numbers. How many people fall in love at the very first sight. How many see through this and so on. But mercifully for 90 minutes, the show is okay — even sweet at times — but for the narrative flatness that might put one to sleep.
Hadley Sullivan, played by Haley Lu Richardson (last seen in “The White Lotus”) is 20, American and ready to fly to England to attend her dad's second wedding. She misses her plane and is bailed out with a business class ticket.
Waiting to get on the flight, she meets Oliver (Ben Hardy). They have coffee together, and as luck would have it, they are taking the same flight. Again as luck would have it, his economy seat belt does not work, and the stewardess upgrades him to business. Luck again, when he finds her seated next to him. Honestly, there’s a bit too much of luck but hey, this is a rom-com after all.
Richardson essays a 20-something college student she is not convincing enough to carry off. But Hardy makes up for this with his quick wit, amazing energy and suffering sorrow when he sees his mother. He is on his way to attend a condolence prayer meeting that the mother insists even though she is not yet gone. It should be noted that British star Jameela Jamil gives the work some amusing levity as the omnipresent narrator.
“Love at First Sight” is sweet but forgettable — worth an evening’s watch if you’re in the mood for a light rom-com with some emotional moments, but not worth a re-watch.
Review: A fantastic Denzel Washington makes ‘The Equalizer 3’ a hit
Updated 25 September 2023
CHENNAI: The fantastic Denzel Washington returns in this third and final part of the franchise, “The Equalizer 3,” as government-assassin-turned-vigilante Robert McCall. The movie also sees director Antoine Fuqua getting together with Washington after “Training Day,” “The Magnificent Seven” and the first two parts of “The Equalizer.” The seamless style, spell-binding action and lead star make this film a hit.
McCall finds a home, and kinship, in a small community in a small town, and steps in to protect its inhabitants when danger begins to stalk them.
As the first minutes of this drama begin to unfold. we see a man walking through a vineyard with bodies all around. They have all been shot, and even as McCall finishes off the wicked in what appears like a fantasy out of the blue, Fuqua does manage to inject a tiny bit of realism. Our man does get hurt and has to depend on a kind-hearted cop (Eugenio Mastrandrea) to take him to a doctor in the town.
His recuperation time gives him an opportunity to make friends with the locals — and these are a motley group. A priest, a man who runs a cafe and even a fish-seller. McCall soon begins to feel at home and forms a warm bond with them. But his trained eye never misses a beat and he senses danger lurking beneath the surface — the mafia, of course. Its nefarious players have a firm hold on the locals. McCall takes the help of a CIA operative, Dakota Fanning, and swings into action.
The script by Richard Wenk is simple and lends itself to an easy understanding of the narrative. Plot revelations are quick to come and help in taking the work forward. The bad guys are bad, and the plot makes it clear that although McCall may be as violent, he is friendly and helpful – qualities that charm the townsfolk.
Washington holds the movie together and it is a joy to watch him take on the mafia, blow by blow. In contrast, Fanning brings out his humorous side. The third star of the show is the scenery – the Italian vistas are glorious.
‘FenaaPhone’ exhibition is a blast from Saudi Arabia’s musical past
Showcasing Saudi artist Saad Al-Howede’s archival collection, the ‘FenaaPhone’ exhibition is a walk through the rich recent history of the Kingdom’s dynamic music scene
Updated 24 September 2023
RIYADH: The spiral stairs of the Diplomatic Quarter’s newest art and creative hub, Fenaa Alawwal, is teleporting audiences back to the origins of Saudi sound until Oct. 12 through the exquisite, one-of-a-kind archival collection of Saudi artist Saad Al-Howede.
As audiences are immersed in the works of legends such as Tarek Abdulhakim, who composed the tune of the Saudi national anthem, and the iconic “Queen of Saudi Pop” Etab, the audiovisual exhibition “FenaaPhone” provides a microcosm that encapsulates the nostalgic music of the Kingdom’s heritage.
Al-Howede told Arab News: “In Saudi Arabia today, the music and cultural scene is growing and rising, and concerts are in every city and space. I wanted to add to that with the archival collection I have — especially around the Saudi National Day, which is a special celebration for us.
“I’ve collected many national songs in the archives by big artists like Talal (Maddah), Mohammed Abdu, Abadi, the Al-Janadriya Operetta, Rashed Al-Majed, Abdulmajid Abdullah … The exhibit, for me, parallels the cultural and musical scene itself.”
• ‘FenaaPhone’ is being held at Diplomatic Quarter’s newest art and creative hub, Fenaa Alawwal, until Oct. 12.
• It was curated by Sawtasura — a research project dedicated to archiving the history of Saudi women through vocal heritage.
• The exhibition consists of five immersive sections across the scenography of the exhibition, designed by Studio Bound.
The event is one of the first to spotlight the emergence of the Saudi pop music scene through a curated dialogue within the timeframe of the late 1950s to the 2000s while also promoting discussion around its significance today.
Curated by Sawtasura — a research project dedicated to archiving the history of Saudi women through vocal heritage — the central principle of “FenaaPhone” is to provide a framework for younger generations to learn about the fast-growing industry.
Tara Al-Dughaither, founder of Sawtasura, told Arab News: “I thought it was important in this moment, where the music industry is growing in a different direction, to understand what it was originally like — and not to think that there wasn’t one before. It was rich and active for so many years.
I thought it was important in this moment, where the music industry is growing in a different direction, to understand what it was originally like — and not to think that there wasn’t one before.
Tara Al-Dughaither, Sawtasura founder
“I felt that it’s important to have the context, in general, of how pop music emerges, because that’s a story that’s relevant and familiar worldwide. To also place the history of music here is not different.”
The trove of collected items lie in five immersive sections across the scenography of the exhibition, designed by Studio Bound.
The journey begins at “Folk to Formal,” where audiences can uncover some context about the music sphere pre-1960s in the region. Music was rooted in native forms of poetry and composition, usually to serve as entertainment or comfort mechanisms during various occasions like weddings or eulogies. Many musicians at the time used the oud, a string instrument, to distinguish their sound including Fahad bin S’ayyed, Mukhled Atheyabi, and Abdullah Al-Salloum.
The section also features a rare magnetic wire recording of the song “On the Road for Prayer” by Isaa Al-Ahsa’l recorded in the ‘50s.
The “Turning from Within” section proceeds from the mid 1960s to late 1970s, where record stores began emerging amid the rise of urban life. This period also showed an increase in establishing private, artist-owned studios and Saudi-owned record companies, as well as women’s access to these spaces as essential figures in the industry.
“We Are Now Live” displays the scene from the early 1980s onwards, where a film recording shows Mohammed Abdu’s 1983 performance in London on display along with press materials of the historic event. Other international performances by artists like Abu Bakr Salem are also displayed.
Throughout the “Make It Pop!” section is a decade of Saudi pop stories published in Arab print publications highlighting events from 1982 to 1992. Many of the works point to Etab, who is the first Saudi female singer to go public and achieve regional star status. Her work transcended regional boundaries, making her an inspiration for many artists at the time — and even now.
“Voices of the Current” features re-imaginings of the poster graphics of 14 influential Saudi artists who helped shape the scene, selected by Sawtasura’s archive assistant Sara Al-Ourfi and designed by Lina Amer.
The exhibition creates an encapsulated experience of the past, offering audiences a chance to immerse in history, listen to authentic live performances, and contrast past writings with modern perspectives. Much of Saudi Arabia’s music content can be found on Youtube and various sites, but none of these are currently mediated.
Al-Dughaither said: “I would love people to learn more about the music here and try to build our music scene from the roots … I would also of course like to call for more investment towards these kinds of projects.”
In the last 10 years, Al-Howede has collected items relating to the heritage of the region, whether it be music, films, electronic devices, newspapers, or magazines.
Speaking about what drives him, Al-Howede said: “My motivation was to preserve history, the memory of the person hearing a song, living through it, and enjoying it, where it’s been sung in various occasions and places. I want people to live through that nostalgia when they see this history displayed 30 years, or more, later.”
The “FenaaPhone” exhibition runs alongside a series of panel discussions, music performances, and a pop-up store.
Review: ‘A Million Miles Away’ is a warm, fuzzy biopic
The story of real-life astronaut Jose Hernandez makes for a charming movie
Updated 24 September 2023
LONDON: Every now and then, a heartwarming biopic comes along to remind us that movies, when they’re at their best, can simply make us feel good. And so it is with Prime Video’s “A Million Miles Away,” the thoroughly pleasant and lovely story of Jose Hernandez, the first Mexican-American astronaut. Adapted from his memoir, “Reaching for the Stars,” the movie features Michael Pena as Hernandez and Rosa Salazar as his wife Adela. Director Alejandra Marquez Abella takes us deep into Hernandez’s childhood, charting his early life as a migrant farm worker whose parents sacrificed everything to stay in California, choosing to give their children a settled life — and education — instead of following the nomadic patterns of Mexican harvest workers in 1970s US.
Hernandez graduates from university, gets a job as an engineer, meets the love of his life, and starts a family. But Adela sees his burning childhood desire to explore space going unrealized and encourages her husband to apply to NASA, trading their family’s stability for his chance to join the space program.
“A Million Miles Away” has a pretty standard message at its heart — try hard, be persistent, support those you love, be prepared to try even harder — but manages to avoid crossing into schmaltzy Hallmark-esque cliche thanks to compelling performances from its two charismatic leads. Pena and Salazar are utterly convincing as a pair of soulmates for whom the dreams of one are the dreams of both. Sure, the story beats are predictable, and the jeopardy feels a little contrived (wouldn’t be much of a movie if he never makes it), but there’s a real heartfelt backbone to “A Million Miles Away” — not to mention some steel, too, with issues of workplace racism and familial sacrifice all touched upon to varying degrees.
But it’s a nice, warm, fuzzy movie that gives you something — and someone — to root for. And sometimes, that’s all an audience needs.
The festival vibes were enhanced with Azilook stations for makeup, hair, nails and henna tattoos. There was also an opportunity to shop for attire from Creative Collection, accessories from Qurmoz and perfumes from SURGE.
In addition, several food vendors were available, including Gun Bun, SALT, Out of Line, Just Chill, Creamery, Baroque and Maui.